By Lana Turnbull
What a question to ponder in an election season when the question of the day has become…”Is civility dead?” When did the crevasse between a time of courtesy and politeness and the present time of crudeness, profanity and vindictiveness, become so vast that I fear the human race is in danger of falling in and disappearing entirely. Our decline into cultural oblivion seems to be racing down a slippery slope and the pace of our descent is increasing every moment.
Ok, time out. This is getting depressing. This isn’t climate change. (Remember when we used to say this isn’t rocket science?) How hard could it be to turn around the current trend of what I will call PAR, Perpetual Attack Response? Someone says, or posts or tweets a comment and we then must immediately launch a rebuttal that not only explains in no uncertain, and often profane terms, why we adamantly disagree with their position. But that’s not the end of it. Then we must continue to explain why they are entirely wrong, with a few choice adjectives to vividly describe their total inability to grasp the subject in question and their obvious confusion between a part of their anatomy and a hole in the ground.
This is where I have to ask some thought provoking questions.
1. What do we hope to accomplish from our response?
2. Do we really want to know what they think about our position or will that just give rise to a repeated attack, and escalating dialogue?
3. Do we think we will change the other person’s mind with our approach?
4. If our goal is not to change their opinion or find a place of middle ground, what is the purpose of the exchange?
5. If PAR doesn’t work for a disagreement over who is the greatest quarterback or what restaurant makes the best burger or whether the sky is blue, is there hope for any resolution about the big things?
So, whatever happened to the time when we could sit down across from someone, exchange pleasantries about their work and their family and then get down to business and find ways to solve problems? Whether it be a family decision, local issue to be addressed, or the ultimate fate of the free world for goodness sake, sitting back on our haunches and snarling and expecting a positive outcome is about as realistic as asking southerners to give up sweet tea. To put it colloquially, it ain’t gonna happen.
So back to the question – Is chivalry dead? With the exception of a few pre-baby boomers who remember a time “when people were nice, and things were pretty,” I’m afraid chivalry is dead. However it would only take a few hundred million dreamers with good manners to resurrect it. I guess we have to decide what kind of world we want to live in. It’s a little like climate change…there is a point from which we may never return.
“When people were nice and things were pretty,” is the name of a cookbook published by the Merigold, Mississippi United Methodist Church. It is a collection of recipes from just such a time when chivalry reigned and good food was something everyone could agree about.